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How to control climate change?

The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has been billed as a last chance to limit global warming to 1.5C. But beyond the deals and photo opportunities, what are the key things countries need to do in order to tackle climate change? BBC reports.

1. Keep fossil fuels in the ground

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and especially coal, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping heat and raising global temperatures. 

It’s an issue that has to be tackled at the government level if temperature rises are to be limited to 1.5C – the level considered the gateway to dangerous climate change. 

However, many major coal-dependent countries – such as Australia, the US, China and India – have declined to sign a deal at the summit aimed at phasing out the energy source in the coming decades. 

2. Curb methane emissions

A recent UN report has suggested that reducing emissions of methane could make an important contribution to tackling the planetary emergency.

A substantial amount of methane is released from “flaring” – the burning of natural gas during oil extraction – and could be stopped with technical fixes. Finding better ways of disposing of rubbish is also important because landfill sites are another big methane source.

At COP26, nearly 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions, in a deal spearheaded by the US and the EU. The Global Methane Pledge aims to limit methane emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels.

3. Switch to renewable energy

Many wind turbines and a large solar panel array in a desert valley, mountains in the distance and blue sky above. Palm Springs, California, USA

Electricity and heat generation make a greater contribution to global emissions than any economic sector. 

Transforming the global energy system from one reliant on fossil fuels to one dominated by clean technology – known as decarbonization – is critical for meeting current climate goals.

Wind and solar power will need to dominate the energy mix by 2050 if countries are to deliver on their net zero targets.

There are challenges, however.

Less wind means less electricity generated, but better battery technology could help us store surplus energy from renewables, ready to be released when needed.

4. Abandon petrol and diesel

We’ll also need to change the way we power the vehicles we use to get around on land, sea and in the air. 

Ditching petrol and diesel cars and switching to electric vehicles will be critical. 

Lorries and buses could be powered by hydrogen fuel, ideally produced using renewable energy. 

And scientists are working on new, cleaner fuels for aircraft, although campaigners are also urging people to reduce the number of flights they take.

5. Plant more trees

A UN report in 2018 said that, to have a realistic chance of keeping the global temperature rise under 1.5C, we’ll have to remove CO2 from the air. 

Forests are excellent at soaking it up from the atmosphere – one reason why campaigners and scientists emphasize the need to protect the natural world by reducing deforestation. 

Programs of mass tree planting are seen as a way of offsetting CO2 emissions. 

Trees are likely to be important as countries wrestle with their net-zero targets because once emissions have been reduced as much as possible, remaining emissions could be “canceled out” by carbon sinks such as forests. 

6. Remove greenhouse gases from the air

Emerging technologies that artificially remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or stop it being released in the first place, could play a role. 

A number of direct-air capture facilities are being developed, including plants built by Carbon Engineering in Texas and Climeworks in Switzerland. They work by using huge fans to push air through a chemical filter that absorbs CO2. 

Another method is carbon capture and storage, which captures emissions at “point sources” where they are produced, such as at coal-fired power plants. The CO2 is then buried deep underground. 

However, the technology is expensive – and controversial, because it is seen by critics as helping perpetuate a reliance on fossil fuels.

7. Give financial aid to help poorer countries

New Delhi, India – July 25, 2018: A poor boy collecting garbage waste from a landfill site in the outskirts of Delhi. Hundreds of children work at these sites to earn their livelihood.

At the Copenhagen COP summit in 2009, rich countries pledged to provide $100bn (£74.6bn) in financing by 2020, designed to help developing countries fight and adapt to climate change. 

That target date has not been met, although the UK government, as holders of the COP presidency, recently outlined a plan for putting the funding in place by 2023.

Many coal-dependent countries are facing severe energy shortages that jeopardize their recovery from Covid and disproportionately affect the poor. These factors stop them from moving away from polluting industries. 

Some experts believe poorer nations will need continuing financial support to help them move towards greener energy. For instance, the US, EU and UK recently provided $8.5bn to help South Africa phase out coal use.

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The world should adopt faster to the climate crisis – UN report

The gap is widening between the impacts of the climate crisis and the world’s effort to adapt to them, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme, CNN reports.

The annual “adaptation gap” report — which published Thursday amid the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow — found that the estimated costs to adapt to the worst effects of warming temperatures such as droughts, floods and rising seas in low-income countries are five to 10 times higher than how much money is currently flowing into those regions. 

In addition to promising to limit warming, governments from wealthy nations in the 2015 Paris Accord reaffirmed their commitment to contribute $100 billion a year to poorer nations to move away from fossil fuel and adapt to climate change-fueled disasters. This is because developing nations, particularly those in the Global South, are most likely to endure the worst effects of the climate crisis, despite the small amount they contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said this is why climate finance — funding for low-income countries to fight the climate crisis — is vital.

“The Paris Accord says adaptation and mitigation funding needs to be in a degree of balance,” Andersen told CNN. “Those in poorer countries are going to suffer the very most, so ensuring that there’s a degree of equity and a degree of global solidarity for adaptation finance is critical.”

But the report found that $100 billion a year — a pledge which wealthy nations have so far been unable to achieve — isn’t even enough to match the demand. Adaptation costs for low-income countries will hit $140 to 300 billion each year by 2030 and $280 to 500 billion per year by 2050, UNEP reports. 

In 2019, only $79 billion of climate financing flowed into developing nations, according to the latest analysis.

As the climate crisis intensifies, adaptation measures are becoming more critical. Global scientists have said the world should try to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — a critical threshold to avoid the worst impacts. But Thursday’s report suggests this threshold will be breached sooner than previously imagined, and some climate impacts are already irreversible. Wildfires, droughts, record heat waves and deadly floods terrorized parts of the Northern Hemisphere this summer.

“While strong mitigation is the way to minimize impacts and long-term costs, increased ambition in terms of adaptation, particularly for finance and implementation, is critical to prevent existing gaps widening,” the report’s authors wrote. 

Roughly 79% of all countries have adopted at least one adaptation plan, policy or strategy to stem the impact, a 7% increase since 2020. Meanwhile, 9% of countries that don’t currently have a plan or policy in place are in the process of developing one. 

But the report says implementation of these adaptation measures is stalling. A separate UNEP report found that 15 major economies will continue to produce roughly 110% more coal, oil, and gas in 2030 than what’s necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, which will worsen climate change-fueled extreme weather events and make adaptation all the more critical. 

At a forum on vulnerable countries at COP26 this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on wealthy nations, banks and shareholders to “allocate half their climate finance to adaptation” and “offer debt relief” for low-income nations.

“Vulnerable countries must have faster and easier access to finance,” Guterres said. “I urge the developed world to accelerate delivery on the $100 billion dollars to rebuild trust. Vulnerable countries need it for adaptation and for mitigation. [They] are not the cause of climate disruption.”

One way to tackle this, according to the report’s authors, is to use Covid-19 recovery stimulus packages as an opportunity to deliver green and resilient adaptation measures to developing countries. The twin crises of climate change and the pandemic have stretched economic and disaster response thin, but authors say it proves the world can adapt to the worst impacts of warming temperatures.

The adaptation gap report comes at a critical time as world leaders gather at COP26 to discuss the probability of keeping the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius alive, as well as also ensuring that wealthy, fossil fuel-generating nations hold on to their promise of transferring $100 billion a year to low-income countries, particularly in the Global South.

Andersen said one thing is clear: “The more we delay climate action, the more adaptation will become important, especially for the most poor, who are going to be hit the hardest.”

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